Danny Rogers: Can City PR finally move to a new level?

Someone asked me this week: 'Who are the hot agencies in City and corporate PR?' This is always a tough question.

Danny Rogers: Can City PR finally move to a new level?
Danny Rogers: Can City PR finally move to a new level?

City PR, in particular, has been steady, slow to change.

Most comms professionals have views on the 'hot consumer shops' - whose creativity wins gongs and turns heads - but financial consultancy has been dominated for years by the FTSE-advising stalwarts such as Brunswick, Finsbury and FD. Sure, there are the nimbler, specialist players including M: Communications, Powerscourt and Smithfield, but even these smaller shops have been around for a decade or more.

More recently, however, there have finally been some new kids on this (notoriously lucrative) block. Earlier this year StockWell Group launched, founded by ex-Maitland CEO Philip Gawith, ex-Friends Provident comms head Nick Boakes and former Brunswick consultant Tim Burt.

In July, we got Morgan Rossiter, co-founded by another ex-Brunswicker, James Rossiter.

And we are still waiting for former Tulchan partner Andrew Honnor to launch his new agency, but he has been seconded to trouble-hit News International for a while.

So potentially we could be seeing the next generation of Alan Parkers, Roland Rudds and Angus Maitlands emerging.

The big question, however, is to what extent these consultancies will really be 'hot' - tangibly different from what went before?

It will be disappointing if the next generation of City PR firms simply offer the same service as their gene pool. Few believe the level of M&A activity will return to the glory days of the late 1990s and mid-2000s. And even if it does, the consultancy fees are unlikely to be as high.

This means truly ambitious City PR agencies must diversify their offerings. This has been tried to some extent by FD, which acquired various specialist PR outfits and, more successfully, by College Hill.

Brunswick allegedly considered buying public affairs and corporate outfit APCO, the latter of which also formed a limited alliance with Maitland.

From the other direction, we have seen a litany of public affairs and corporate consultancies that singularly failed to develop a leading City PR offering.

360 degree corp comms is the answer, but requires best-in-class specialism and enlightened clients.

But if they are to achieve their (presumed) aim of huge financial rewards, one suspects the next generation of City consultancies must crack it. They will need to have this broad-based consultancy ethic in their very DNA.

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